UK workers do not feel employers care about their well-being

17 February 2020 4 min. read
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Sick staff cost British firms billions annually in lost productivity, meaning businesses are rushing to beef up their digital health offerings in a bid to boost the condition of their staff. The majority of UK employers plan to invest more in digital health solutions over the next five years – but many UK workers do not feel this demonstrates the fact their organisation actually cares about their well-being.

The UK economy is currently facing a sustained period of pressure, thanks to slower than expected growth. Central to this problem is the issue of poor productivity, which continues to plague British businesses. Sickness and presenteeism are major contributors to this issue. The pressure to attend work at all costs in particular, despite illness, could ultimately cost UK businesses over £77 billion – in part due to the added mental and physical anxiety placed upon staff.

Because of this, it is not difficult to understand why 62% of UK employers apparently plan to sink more resources into digital health solutions in the coming five years. ‘Health on demand’ solutions can effectively supplement existing benefits and help secure access to treatment and services, something especially important in Britain, where the underfunded health system is facing potential Brexit turmoil. In this context, a survey by Mercer Marsh Benefits polled 100 UK organisations and 1,000 employees to find what employees hoped to achieve with this, and what staff thought of their workplace’s keenness to bring in new healthcare programmes.

Four different worker segments to engage and Low barriers to adoption, high trust in employers

According to the survey, a large minority of 47% of staff were excited by the prospect of digital health innovation, but the research did also uncover considerable differences in how employees perceive the value of and engage with digital health innovations, which suggests personalisation is key to engagement and successful implementation.

Despite a small 7% of staff simply writing off the technology as ‘not for me’, the largest portion of respondents told researchers they were receptive to new health innovations, just not confident in their own ability to take advantage of digital health programmes, so would like the employer to take a paternalistic approach. Beyond this dominant 43%, a sizeable tech-savvy portion of 34% simply identified with the sentiment ‘sign me up.’

On a global level, though, it seems UK workers are much more hostile to digital health innovations than their international counterparts. A poll of more than 16,000 workers found that on a global basis 51% of staff were in the ‘sign me up’ camp, while just 4% determined that such technology was simply ‘not for me.’

This may be down to the much higher level of trust in employers outside of Britain, with 73% of the international survey stating they trusted their employer’s ability to secure their healthcare data. In the UK, meanwhile, there is a major mismatch between what employers and staff think of their organisation. While 67% of bosses believe their organisations care about employee well-being, just 37% of workers agreed with them. If employees expect to ramp up the enthusiasm of their staff in their health offering, they will need to address this lack of trust quickly. A good way to demonstrate this is by taking the time to tailor solutions.

Tony Wood, UK Leader of Mercer Marsh Benefits said, “It’s encouraging to see increasing appetite for digital health solutions amongst employees and employersHowever, businesses must avoid the temptation to simply provide more products and solutions without considering whether they are right for their workforce. We know that an individual’s personality plays an important role in their attitude to and engagement with health, which provides a great opportunity for companies to start personalising their approach to well-being.”